Emblem: Walking With the King
Motivated by Dr. Cook's famous tagline, Glenn Kroneberger has used his business gifts as an avenue to love and serve others.
Hello, again radio friends! How in the world are you? The radio crackled as a young Glenn Kroneberger ate his bowl of shredded wheat. Every day during breakfast, Glenn and his family always listened to “Walk With the King,” the short radio program by Dr. Robert Cook, from 1962-1985, the president of The King’s College. Then as Glenn and his two older brothers grabbed their backpacks and scurried off to school, his mom would always stand by the door and repeat Dr. Cook’s closing tagline from the show: “Walk with the King, and be a blessing!”
Glenn didn’t know it then, but this phrase would become his life’s mission statement, challenging him to use his gifts to serve God and bless others.
Glenn grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, the youngest son in a family that was grounded in God and gifted with a love of entrepreneurship. From a young age, Glenn and his two brothers were always looking for new businesses to start. Every Fourth of July, Glenn’s mom would drive her three sons to the fruit wholesaler at the Baltimore docks. There, these young entrepreneurs would buy crates of fresh lemons, filling their 1969 Volkswagen Squareback to the brim. Once home, Glenn and his brothers would slice each lemon in half and insert a striped peppermint stick into the center, creating a lemon stick, a long-time Baltimore summer tradition. They’d then sell their lemon sticks at the parades, hawking their sweet treats to the crowds until they were sold out.
But lemon sticks weren’t the brothers’ only business. Another summer they bought a snow cone machine and a variety of flavored syrups. After building a wooden stand and setting it all up in their driveway, the Kroneberger snow cone business was born. Their business model was simple; one brother would run the stand and make snow cones, while the other two would fan out through the neighborhood, drumming up business through word of mouth.
When they weren’t starting businesses, Glenn and his brothers loved talking about them with their dad. They’d all gather around the kitchen table and discuss their latest business ideas. While Glenn’s dad worked for a Christian ministry, he was an entrepreneur at heart and he loved encouraging his sons in their entrepreneurial dreams. As they’d sit around the table, Glenn’s dad would often tell his sons stories about their great-grandfather Kroneberger, who had started Kroneberger Coffee Roasters in Baltimore back in 1905. While Glenn’s great-grandfather eventually sold the business, a picture of him sitting in his 1920s Ford delivery truck with “Kroneberger Coffee Roasters” written on the side still hung next to the kitchen table, reminding the boys of their family’s entrepreneurial past.
Given these experiences, when it came time for college, Glenn knew he wanted to study business. The only question was where? Glenn’s older brother Bryan, influenced by Dr. Cook’s radio programs, had chosen to attend King’s, and even though he was six years older than Glenn, he’d always invite his kid brother to Briarcliff Manor to visit. Bryan’s friends always welcomed Glenn into the group and let him tag along on their ski trips to Vermont. Glenn was struck by the group’s camaraderie and knew that he wanted that kind of college experience
So Glenn enrolled at King’s, ready to study business and see how God might use his gifts. After the initial ups and downs, Glenn fell in love with King’s. He especially appreciated how each professor began their class with a short devotional and prayer. This time set the tone for the class, challenging Glenn to approach business through a Christian framework.
After graduating from King’s, Glenn followed his two older brothers to Miami, where he took a job selling plants for a large tropical nursery to grocery store chains. But he soon grew tired of the corporate culture and spotted an opportunity for a business; he could become a plant broker between the nurseries and the grocery stores. So at 26, Glenn started his first business as an adult, buying thousands of tropical plants from different nurseries and reselling them to national grocery store chains.
While the plant brokerage business took off, after several years of success, Glenn decided to move back to Baltimore. There, he used his profits to open up two restaurants with his middle brother Jeff. But the restaurant business was tough, and as the years passed, they found themselves working harder and harder for less and less money. Eventually, burnt out on restaurant life, Glenn told his wife Nancy, “We need to go somewhere to get away and think about life.” So they booked a flight to Sarasota, Florida, hoping that a weekend away would bring clarity to their future.
Soon after they landed, Glenn and Nancy fell in love with Sarasota, eventually deciding to sell the restaurants and to move their young family to Florida. As they settled in Sarasota, Glenn wasn’t sure what was next for him. One night, though, Glenn and Nancy invited another couple over to their home for dinner. As the two couples talked after the meal, Glenn’s friend saw the picture of his great-grandfather’s truck hanging on the wall. “Glenn,” he asked, “Have you ever thought about getting into the coffee business?”
The question set off a spark in Glenn. He ran to his office and grabbed an inch-thick folder filled with ideas about a coffee roasting business. As the two friends talked, they made plans to open up a new coffee business called Sarasota Coffee and Tea. Glenn would focus on the wholesale side, while his friend would run the retail shop. The two friends soon bought a coffee roaster and took out a lease on a cafe, bringing the business to life. Glenn used his sales experience to establish accounts with restaurants and churches while his friend focused on the coffee roasting and retail shop. But just six months into the business a wrench was thrown into Glenn’s coffee-roasting dreams.
After attending a coffee trade show together in Atlanta, Glenn’s business partner told him on the drive home that the coffee business wasn’t right for him and that he needed to get out. Glenn was blindsided. He hadn’t planned on operating the business by himself, but together they figured out an exit plan for his friend and Glenn became the sole owner of Sarasota Coffee and Tea.
Glenn’s entrepreneurial instincts took over, as he closed the retail shop and put all of his efforts into the wholesale business. He used his relational gifts to develop a devoted customer base, who were won over by the high-quality beans and creative coffee flavors. As the business grew, Glenn hired more employees, expanding Sarasota Coffee and Tea’s presence both in Florida and throughout the country.
But a unique opportunity came when Glenn received an unexpected phone call from the owner of a large Sarasota restaurant. The restaurant owner had just met a businessman from Indiana who was trying to sell a shipping container full of unroasted coffee beans. Intrigued, Glenn gave the man a call.
The businessman turned out to be Martin Graber, a Christian man in his 80s who owned a high-end cabinet-making business. Martin had just been in Nicaragua on a mission trip, where he’d met Diego, a coffee farmer who was about to lose his farm to a predatory bank. Moved by Diego’s plight, Martin came up with a plan to bypass the bank and buy a full shipping container of beans himself. That’s why Martin wanted to talk to Glenn: would he be interested in 37,500 pounds of green coffee beans?
Glenn wanted to help, but first, he had to answer one question: was the coffee even any good? So Martin overnighted a sample to Glenn, which he roasted, ground, and brewed. “Wow!” Glenn thought as he sipped the coffee, “This is some of the best coffee that I’ve ever tasted.” Sarasota Coffee and Tea bought the entire shipping container from Diego’s farm and began roasting and selling the beans.
As the years went by, Glenn’s partnership with Diego continued to grow. Glenn purchased more and more coffee beans from Diego, helping him to escape financial bondage and provide his workers with better pay and new benefits like health insurance and scholarships for school. Diego’s farm flourished, and grew from harvesting one shipping container full of coffee beans a year to seven!
Inspired by this work in Nicaragua, Glenn started a new sister coffee brand called Fresh Cup of Hope. Fresh Cup of Hope works to support local coffee farmers in Central America by buying their coffee and helping them follow sustainable farming practices. Glenn also donates a portion of the profit to Feed the Children, a non-profit that works to alleviate child hunger throughout the world.
Today, Glenn has grown Sarasota Coffee and Tea into a thriving company. Despite a pandemic-caused dip in its wholesale business, its e-commerce sales have doubled over the past two years, setting the company up for future growth.
Through all of the ups and downs of Glenn’s entrepreneurial journey, he’s always sought to live by Dr. Cook’s encouragement to walk with the King and be a blessing to others. He adopted this phrase as his life’s mission statement, using it to guide him through daily life, and continued his mom’s tradition with his own two children, saying it to them every day when he dropped them off at school. To Glenn, “It’s a daily reminder of who we serve and how to live our lives.”
This multi-generational motto has helped guide Glenn to impressive heights, whether he’s helping a Florida restaurant find the perfect coffee roast or enabling Central American farmers to live better lives. How can other people put this phrase into action in their lives? “Don’t be afraid to dream,” Glenn encourages. “Ask the Lord for a vision for your life and He’ll provide it. Then don’t be afraid to act.”
This story is from Emblem VII, our annual magazine. Read the full magazine here